“We probably will have a wealth tax,” said Nancy Pelosi on Sunday.

The Democrats are in a mad scramble to cobble together a Frankenstein’s-monster tax-and-spend bill they’ve laughably labeled “Build Back Better.” They are reaping the gift given to them by the Untethered Orange Id: the two Senate victories in Georgia that may very well have gone the other way had not The Donald engaged in his post-election antics, which put them in a razor-thin 50+1 majority in the Senate. Conversely, they are being rebuffed by Senators Manchin and Sinema, who are not down with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party (yes, yes, Bernie’s an independent, but that’s a hair only a pedant would split).

Their grand ambitions of spending another $3.5 trillion (on top of the $1.2 trillion they want to spend on infrastructure, and the $5 trillion printed up for COVID relief… of which a trillion or so remains unspent) have been whittled down to only about $2 trillion.

To call that “only” is to surrender to the farcical. The most indebted nation in history is still spending as if the bill will never come due.

Of course, the spending needs to be at least cosmetically offset by taxation schemes. Thing is, spending sells, but taxation doesn’t. Especially the sort of taxation that would be required to support all this (i.e. European-style, where everyone gets soaked). So, the Democrats trot out their favorite toy – class envy – and promise that they can pay for all this simply by taxing the rich.

Along comes the latest hare-brained scheme, concocted merely because a few people have a lot of money, without a whit of thought as to impact, consequences, or even efficacy.

Or, for that matter, Constitutionality.

The plan, dubbed the “Billionaire Income Tax” proposal, would require billionaires to pay taxes on the increased value of assets such as stocks on an annual basis, regardless of whether they sell those assets. In other words, unrealized capital gains.

I won’t get into why this is a bad idea, or why it won’t generate the revenue they expect, or why it’ll do real damage to economic growth, or why it will likely affect more and more and more taxpayers as time goes on (this bill’s targeting perhaps 600 individuals, the AMT only targeted 150, but grew to affect millions).

Instead, I’ll echo Ira Stoll at the New York Sun: Such a tax runs afoul of all sorts of Constitutional protections.

1 – Since it affects a small number of people, it may violate the Article I provision against bills of attainder (laws declaring a person or group guilty of a crime and punishing them, often without a trial).

2 – It may violate the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause.

3 – It may qualify as an ex post facto law, also prohibited by the Constitution.

4 – It may violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

5 – It almost certainly exceeds the 16th Amendment’s empowerment to tax income.

These politicians don’t seem to care very much about all this. It’s as if their oath of office:

I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

is just a “yeah yeah let me get this over with” bit of performance, forgotten about as soon as the last word has been uttered.

The Constitution is a brilliant document, specifically created to tell politicians what they are allowed to do, and to prohibit them from doing anything else. But, it’s only a piece of paper, and if we stack our government with enough politicians who’ve no interest in honoring that oath, its provisions will go unenforced.

That we have a Court that still mostly honors the Constitution nettles our “do whatever we want” leaders, who have threatened to “pack” it with justices more amenable to looking the other way when they exceed their authority.

The worst part of all this is that there are a LOT of American voters who support the “whatever they want” approach to government… as long as it’s their team in charge of the whatever.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if our schools spent time teaching civics instead of racism, we’d have fewer of these power-mad runamoks in charge.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

If you'd like to help keep the site ad-free, please support us on Patreon.


Like this post?